Working for a trade publication for nearly 15 years I can’t remember how many times the words “euthanized due to the infirmities of old age” were clicked from my keyboard. I can’t remember because it was a lot. A whole lot.
Stallions, mares, geldings. They get old. They die. It’s a part of the business, part of life.
After a while it’s easy to become numb to it. You’re so far removed sometimes as a reporter, sitting at your desk on the phone, or talking across someone else’s desk while they talk about the exploits of that horse who was here one day and gone the next.
It’s difficult to use the word hardened when talking about situations like those, but you almost get that way even as some of the normally stoic people you deal with get emotional talking about those same horses. They care for them, so they’re entitled for sure.
But as a reporter you’ve got a job to do. Stay impartial. That’s what you learn in college and that’s what you learn around the newsroom. I remember hearing “There’s no cheering in the press box” long before I covered my first horse race.
So you go about your business, trying to tell the story of those horses who meant so much to the people who cared for them, owned them, bred them, raised them, or simply loved them from afar.
Until it strikes close to home.
A lot of people are writing this week about Storm Cat, who was euthanized Wednesday at age 30 at beautiful and spacious Overbrook Farm in Lexington.
Two years earlier at a smaller farm about four miles away on the south side of Lexington, I was taught the meaning of the words “euthanized due to the infirmities of old age.”
We got the call on the way to a local 5k road race at Masterson Station Park on the northwest side of Lexington. Daisy, a copper-penny-colored Quarter Horse and Elizabeth’s faithful equine companion a majority of both their lives, her mount at countless horse shows as a child and teenager, and unofficial farm mascot for her retirement years at Shelby Creek Stables, was down.
Daisy had a rough night battling the onset of and ultimately colic. You could tell by the tossed-and-turned look of her stall. We called the vet, got some Banamine from another vet who lived nearby, and made the 20-minute drive to the farm.
Thankfully a fellow boarder at the farm-we still don’t know her name but to this day are thankful for her kind and gentle approach-had Daisy up and walking by the time we arrived. She was walking up and down the farm’s driveway. Elizabeth took the lead rope, gave Daisy the Banamine, walked her some more, and we both hoped for the best.
A few minutes later the vet arrived, checked her over, and gave us the diagnosis. Daisy’s heart was failing and the difficulty her 32-year-old cardiovascular system was going through was making it extra tough on her digestive system. Not uncommon and not good.
He recommended she be put down. There were things he could do but we’d be putting off the inevitable and probably cause her more pain and discomfort.
We decided to take her to a grassy spot on the farm for her final moments and ultimately her final resting place. I’ll never forget the walk we took down the short road to get there.
Tears streamed down both our cheeks. Daisy, probably oblivious why we were walking down the road, stayed straight and true the whole way. Faithful and giving to the end.
We said our goodbyes and the vet did his job. It didn’t take long. In a matter of seconds Daisy was gone. Elizabeth’s heart was broken. Mine changed forever. I’d never write or even see the words again without thinking of or feeling that day all over again.
It was a cool and breezy day, but a sunny day. It was a day when I learned the meaning behind the words that are more important than they seem when they’re simply clicked from a keyboard. I thank her for that, and for not letting it slip that I needed to drive back one day after forgetting to shut the gate after turning her out on a cold February morning a few years earlier.
Elizabeth, unquestionably, thanks her for so much more.